Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of misperceptions

There are some moms who use more sparkly gloss when talking about their kids than a gaggle of tween girls. They call it putting a positive spin on things. But, really, they make the rest of us feel like crap and sound like they're auditioning for their parent-of-the-year acceptance speech. Of course, there are those of us who are just too tired to fill in the blanks and simply blurt out at playgroup, "Oh yeah, we did some painting and crafts yesterday." Whatever the case, the embellishments or omissions in the tales from other households often leave me feeling that what goes on in your house is better and calmer and more Norman Rockwellish than what goes on in my house, which most days resembles scenes from "Animal House."

Before I had kids, I had visions of lazy afternoons hanging out with the kids or just letting them play alongside me while I worked in the kitchen. I probably got this idea from magazines where moms talk about doing collages with their 2 year old or spending rainy afternoons snuggled on the sofa reading books and drinking hot chocolate. Those of us who live with young children will tell you that art projects are short and messy--as in, five minutes and somehow there's paint on the ceiling. We'll tell you that kids just will not tolerate being ignored while you fix dinner or make a phone call. And hot cocoa on the sofa? Are you nuts? It would be spilled in two seconds. Even lazy afternoons playing with the kids are punctuated with a tantrum or two or three, a shove among siblings, a couple of nasty spills and lots of crying.

I'm learning, though, that there are special mommy glasses that can actually read between the lines. For instance, "We did some water painting and coloring the other day" does not mean two children sat on chairs at a table and used paintbrushes to paint on paper for about a half hour. It really means one kid shouted, "Hey mom, let's paint" and then mommy got kind of excited at the idea of doing an activity at the table. He and his sister stood on their chairs and painted at the table for five minutes. Then the younger one tried to drink the paint water and dipped a crayon in the paint and tried to eat that, too. And then the older one spilled the paint water and the younger splashed her hands in it. The older one then had a fit over the "mess" (that he made). This is why I prefer photography to video. It captures the split second that my children are enjoying that fleeting moment after the last mess and before the next meltdown.

Some folks really don't get my brand of honesty laced with sarcasm. One guy actually told me that I sound like I'm miserable. I'm really not but actually would be if I couldn't find the humor in this life or write about it the way I do. My point is that I wish some folks didn't gloss over the fact that days spent with young children are messy, loud, poopy, wet, smelly, irritating, schizophrenic, exhausting and actually quite fun when you overlook all the aforementioned. But for me to overlook the daily onslaught of unsavory behavior, I need to know that it happens in your house, too. As for the moms who are just too tired to fill in the blanks, I feel you, honey.

So let's just cut the crap and help each other out by being honest. What'd you say? To get us started, I've put together this handy translation guide for some of the most common mommy lies or omissions out there.

One mommy says: My kid was potty trained at age 2.5.
Translation: Your kid knows where the toilet is and puts his pee and poop in it a few times a day (in addition to the gobs of toilet paper and other items he likes to throw in there.) He still has accidents, sometimes daily, and probably will for the next five years. Oh, and he still wears a Pull Up to bed.

One mommy says: My kids have a good time playing together. I hardly have to intervene.
Translation: Your kids played together today for about 20 minutes until it dissolved into World War III. Then you separated them for the rest of the day which is why you hardly had to intervene.

One mommy says: My kid sleeps 12 hours every night.
Translation: Your kid stays in his pajamas and in the general vicinity of his bedroom for 12 hours. Sometimes she falls asleep behind the bedroom door that you had to shut just to keep her in.

One mommy says: My son and I have a chat about his day before nap time.
Translation: If you're honest and don't edit out the crazy stuff, it probably sounds a lot like this: "We gots to cut the roof off the church. Get a ladder. Make it a convertible. Oh, there's my car. There were fireworks. Pow. Pow. No screaming inside. Cut the roof off." Deep breath and a big, wide-eyed nod. "That's a good idea." (This is an actual conversation with Danny who was talking about the fact that he shouldn't scream inside church. Apparently, his solution was to cut the roof off the church then he'd be outside. Brilliant.)

One mommy says: My kids are good eaters. They eat everything I put in front of them.
Translation: You put chicken nuggets and fries out and they eat it all up. Once your son ate a few carrot sticks. And you often feed your grimy little toddler as she sprints by.

One mommy says: My kid knows the alphabet and all his numbers.
Translation: He says the alphabet in random order and often tells you that W is M and the lowercase g is a q. His favorite number is seven which he shouts out every time you ask him what comes after 1 or 2 or 3. Technically, he's right so don't sweat it.

Put away the gloss and, for God's sake, just be honest about the whole parenting experience. We're strong enough to handle the truth. I promise.


Cassidy, Lily and Finn's Mom said...

Josee, I LOVE that you are so honest...and everything you talk about in your posts I have experienced in some form or fashion. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in the chaos. :)

Jennifer said...

I don't want to be friends with people that have "perfect" kids!

Mary Ellen said...

Yeah, what you said, Josee. I would just cut and paste this to my blog (with attribution of course) but I'm too busy scrubbing spaghetti sauce off the wall and fishing crayons from the sink to do so.